Raabe’s hard work pays off with Twins

by Scott Bradley

When Minnesota Twins infielder Brian Raabe played for the Gophers back in the late 1980s, he earned the starting second baseman’s job as a freshman.
Things are a little bit different these days for the player from North Branch, Minn.
Although Raabe normally plays second base with the Twins minor league team in Salt Lake City, he has a minimal chance of playing in that spot now. Chuck Knoblauch, the American League’s Rookie of the Year in 1991 and two-time All Star, plays that position.
But that doesn’t matter to Raabe, who was called up last Monday from the minors to play for the Twins. He just wants to contribute to the team, regardless if that means starting or subbing.
“I’ve never had anything given to me,” Raabe said. “At Minnesota, I wasn’t given the second baseman’s job. I had to earn that. And that’s the way I’ve learned how to play the game. Just go out and play hard and good things will happen.”
Raabe is a lot like the little engine that could. He doesn’t give up, and he always plays his hardest. Raabe’s successful path to the majors doesn’t surprise Seattle Mariners catcher Dan Wilson, who was Raabe’s teammate when they both earned All-American honors while with the Gophers in 1990.
“He was always one of the hardest workers on the team,” Wilson said. “He never knew of the words quit or die. He is a great person and has overcome a lot. (And) he’s accustomed to reaching his goals.”
For some professional baseball prospects, making it in the majors is easy. Knoblauch, for example, was signed in the first round of the 1989 draft and debuted for the Twins two years later.
Raabe’s path to the big leagues hasn’t been quite as glamorous. He was signed in the 41st round of the 1990 draft. After five years of playing minor league ball, Raabe finally got called up to the majors last September. But he has yet to remain on the Twins roster for a full season, so his new goal is to establish himself as an everyday major league player.
“There probably wasn’t a lot of people who believed I could play major league baseball except for myself,” Raabe said. “To actually realize that dream and play in the majors is quite an accomplishment — something I’ve dreamed of my whole life.”
Raabe had a chance to see Wilson, his old college teammate, during batting practice Tuesday before the Twins home game against Seattle. Raabe still considers Wilson a baseball god, just as he did during his days with the Gophers.
“The best thing about Dan is that he’s a great person,” Raabe said. “Not only that, but he has a great God-given ability to catch, and he’s probably one of the best defensive and offensive catchers in the major leagues.”
During batting practice, Raabe walked to the Seattle dugout where Wilson was seated and bowed several times, recognizing Wilson’s hot hitting. In fact, Wilson is batting .316 and has 11 home runs so far this year.
Those are the kind of numbers Raabe would like to post some day. Since getting called up this year, Raabe, 28, has played in four games. He is currently earning the league minimum $109,000, which translates into $673 per game.
Realizing that his chances of playing second base are slim, Raabe is trying to fill in for the Twins at third. Despite the tough competition at the major league level, Raabe believes he can develop into a successful major leaguer.
“The last thing I want to think about right now is playing in the minor leagues,” he said. “There’s no reason to think I’m going to go back down. I’m going to play my hardest while I’m up here and hopefully good things will happen.”